Gender on the Debate Stage: December Numbers

Betsy Fischer Martin | Dec 20, 2019


For a full recap of the December Los Angeles, CA debate numbers, head here.

Last night’s debate had the smallest field of candidates to date – seven contenders, including only two women, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar. Tulsi Gabbard and Marianne Williamson remain in the race for the Democratic nomination but failed to meet the DNC’s qualifying requirements, and Kamala Harris qualified for the debate but dropped out of the race on December 3rd.

In fact, for the first time, we saw more female moderators than female candidates on the stage. The debate was co-hosted by PBS and they put forth three of their top journalists, Judy Woodruff, Amna Nawaz, and Yamiche Alcindor, who joined POLITICO’s Tim Alberta for moderating duties.

And while last month’s debate in Atlanta (with an all-female moderator panel) saw a variety of questions related to issues central to the lives of women and families  – like child care and paid family leave, reproductive rights, sexual violence and harassment against women – we didn’t see as much of a focus on those topics last night.

Perhaps one of the most pointed questions to date about gender and women in politics was asked by the sole male moderator, Tim Alberta of POLITICO.  Referring to comments made this week by President Obama, Alberta asked the candidates to respond to his assertion that if women were in charge of running countries, “you’d see a significant improvement on just about everything.”

All told, there was a total of 106 questions and rebuttal prompts that were directed at the seven candidates on the stage over the course of about two and a half hours. 31 (29%) of the questions posed went to the two women on the stage.

Of the 31 questions and prompts that went to women candidates:

*The second most of any candidate behind Bernie Sanders

Overall the main topics covered were:

The next debate will be held on January 14th at Drake University in Des Moines, just two weeks before the Iowa Caucuses. It will be co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register. The DNC has increased the qualification standards for this debate, requiring candidates to receive at least 5% support in four eligible national polls or 7% in two early-state polls. The fundraising threshold is 225,000 unique individual donors, up from the 200,000 required for this debate. Thus far, Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Sanders and Warren have met the criteria.

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